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Ask the iTunes Guy: Of missing genres and artist sorting

Kirk McElhearn | Jan. 5, 2015
Kirk McElhearn starts the new year by answering your iTunes-related questions.

In this week's column, I examine a host of iTunes questions. I look at a bug in iTunes 12, where deleting the genre tag creates a blank genre. I discuss an issue where a reader couldn't import AAC files into iTunes. I explain how to combine a pre-ordered single with an album. And I show how to sort artists by their last name.

Editing genre tags
Q: I've noticed a new behavior with editing the Genre tag in iTunes 12. Previously, when I wanted to remove a Genre tag and not reassign it (keep it blank), deleting the genre tag from the Info window worked just fine--there was no genre assigned. Now, when I delete the genre, the track has a blank genre. Is there any way to fix this?

I contacted the reader and he explained that he likes to have some of his music with no assigned genre tag so that he can use smart playlists to find certain tracks that do have assigned genres. I followed the steps he'd taken and, indeed, the genres were not empty in tracks I changed. When deleting the Genre tag, iTunes replaced it with eight spaces, rather than nothing. I explain this more in an article on my website.

As near as I can tell, this is a bug. There are a couple of workarounds. If you edit each track individually, you can correctly delete the Genre tag. Or, you can delete it in the old Info window. To do that, hold down the Option key, right-click the track, and select Get Info for multiple tracks. The old Info window appears. Now delete the tag. Or, you can use an AppleScript that Doug Adams whipped up, which deletes the Genre tag correctly.

Not all AAC files are iTunes-compatible
Q: After spending 12 hours converting the MP3 files on my PC to the AAC format, I discovered that iTunes doesn't accept AAC files converted by other software. It refused to add my files. How can I convert my existing MP3 files?
iTunes does not refuse AAC files converted with other software. The problem here was that the user chose a different type of AAC file; one with the .aac extension. He sent me a file and I found that he had converted them to ADTS (Audio Data Transport Stream) files, which is a format used for streaming AAC audio files. The user went back and selected M4A as the format, and all worked well.

Two things to note here. First, AAC files are not restricted to use as music files. In this case, a sort of hybrid format is used for streaming over Internet radio stations. Second, if you're not aware of it, the .m4a extension may seem surprising, especially if you know that the format you want is AAC. Audio files have an alphabet soup of formats and file extensions, and it can be quite confusing sometimes.


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